Order and Chaos

Order and Chaos

2003, Science  -   15 Comments
Ratings: 7.97/10 from 61 users.

Our world rotates in a constant state of chaos. The role of science, in many respects, is to organize common patterns in such a way that allows us to recognize the order within this chaos. The documentary Order and Chaos, produced by New Atlantis, explores some of the most enlightening scientific discoveries throughout our history which have sought to make sense of chaotic phenomenon in our universe.

"Many features of our world are consequences of this peculiar process where chaotic events come together to produce order," says interview subject John Barrow, an astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge in London. Examples of this can be found all around us in our weather, the flow of heavy traffic on our roadways, or in the formation of our universe. Through mathematical equations and experimental observation, this dynamic of finding order from chaos also formed the basis for the Big Bang Theory, the universally accepted scientific model that explains the origins of our galaxy through the expansion of matter in space.

In addition to pinpointing the earliest origins of our universe over 13.7 billion years ago, the film shows that science has also led the way in foretelling trends which may endanger the future sustainability of our planet and species. This, in turn, has led to many proactive approaches designed to reverse these trends. In 1973, a hypothesis was first presented that man-made gases were rising into the stratosphere and eroding our planet's protective ozone layer. While this theory was brushed aside as too far-reaching when first published, subsequent discoveries have successfully substantiated its validity. As a result, the Montreal Protocol was born, an international treaty devoted to decreasing occurrences of these destructive gas emissions.

As our understanding of the universe continues to evolve, so does our capacity for exploring the subatomic matter that serves as the foundation of all life. This exploration has led to the discovery of the genetic makeup of all living things, DNA, and a series of practical applications which were once thought impossible.

Our desire to seek order from the chaos of our galaxy and our species is ongoing, and there are still many mysteries we have yet to unravel. Order and Chaos gives voice to these ambitious pursuits, and leaves one excited for the possibilities of who we are, where we come from and where we're going.

More great documentaries

15 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Peter

    Noticed that North Star is wrongly indicated as being on the prolongation of the line generated by the 2 stars close to dipper's handle.

  2. Phil

    Good doc.

    Initially the name chaos is good introductory, the butterfly effect (BE) is much better description. The way I view it , which I think is correct , the BE obeys all the laws of known physics, with some possible (and undiscovered) exceptions, but is an admission that we cannot possibly take into account all the infinite inputs that would precisely or exactly determine the output of any particular complex problem of interest, would be much to much complexity at this stage of our knowledge and capabilities. The BE at this point in time would be a nice additional subject in the study of science - to point out the infinite actions that are involved in any particular reaction...

    Fractals (F) are an interesting addition to science and look to have some valid input, but math is a language that we use to describe our world and is not necessarily connected to our world (my opinion). Certainly we do not fully understand to completion our universe and so their are many possibilities, fractals do seem to mimic some aspects of our universe but mainly a curiosity. Mathematics has been very helpful but I am thinking that we will be facing some perceptual limits to understanding our universe, math may extend our knowledge past those limits -- But we have a long ways to go to get to that point...

    I think the documentary was a good one, the type of stuff that I like to think about.

  3. Pysmythe

    Among other items on the cosmic menu, I believe I'll opt for a generous side-order of thermodynamics, thank you, and that, indeed, whether I darn well find it palatable or not, I'm afraid it must be said. But anyway, waiter, can you give me some idea at least on what kind of a wait my party can expect before being served?

    1. dewflirt

      Heston Blumenthal can cook that up for you ;)

    2. Pysmythe

      Oh, good heavens, hello, my dear, so good to see you!

      Blumenthal, you say? Ok, well, sure, but only for about a few trillion years or so, lopping off an eon here and there... Oh, wait! He's a pretty quick one with the works now, isn't he? Believe I'll tell him I'd like a double-slit of fries; one for now, and one for snacking on in some alternate universe.

  4. Jon

    Science can only isolate a few variable and then identify order from what used to be chaos. Chaos is actually a confused perception rather than a mindful observation.

    This is how gravity got explained. It had to assume that the object was in a vacuum before measurement of acceleration. It is like freezing a frame of thought and then assuming that all else is constant, before pinpointing the order or relationship of a few variables.

  5. winston

    Read the book Chaos: Making a New Science: by James Gleick

  6. Philio

    Excellent doc, I enjoyed it. I found it informative and humorously
    entertaining particularly toward the end. The two words, order and chaos, in the title immediately perked my attention. I believe that
    chaos is a figment of the imagination because chaos, complete disorder and confusion, does not exist in nature save for one of its creations, the human mind. If order comes out of chaos, chaos must follow rules.

    It reminds me of reading about the philosophy of “Phenomenology”
    from Descartes to Husserl and others through to today. Now there is an example of chaos in action due to the same causes, the arrogance of knowledge.
    How long does it take to understand seriously that our capacity for prediction is extraordinarily limited and our ability to be objective is extremely limited? It seems that future mega-leaps in science will always be in the hands of the rebels.

    1. DarkSpirit

      Chaos does exist in nature, for example, the weather. Chaos is described by the "sensitivity to initial condition". Even if you can measure the position and velocity of every air molecule in the system, a small error in your measurements would expand to a huge difference in your forecasting for the future.

    2. Airvaulting for Girls

      Ye olde butterfly effect, if'n I'm not mistaken, ol' chap. Still, it's a little fascinating and disheartening what the current limitations of science are, and yet, thankfully, our natural inclination is to master our environment and our predictions regarding it as fully and often and as accurately as possible. This does come with the caveat, obviously, of my referring only to those who've diligently chosen to abide by the principles of unbiased reason and testable results, inasmuch as this can possibly be done at present .

    3. Philio

      Yes on your statement on measurement error. Doesn't that lay the blame on the observer and not the system? Stated otherwise the calculus is correct but the data was wrong??

    4. DarkSpirit

      Whether you blame the observer or the system depends on your perspective. Perspective is everything in this universe because everything is relative.

    5. dmxi

      i ,too...like my chaos in order.

    6. Philio

      Sounds like life in general..

    7. DigiWongaDude

      "...chaos, complete disorder and confusion, does not exist in nature...".

      The simplest example I'm aware of, is the "three body problem". Two bodies interacting (say planets) can be 'predictable' in their motion, but simply adding one more interactive body to the pair can create unpredictable results (chaos). I did say planets right? :)